Isabella DeFir: Healing Through Music and Song

Isabella DeFir’s love of music can be traced all the way back to when she was a little girl and performed impromptu concerts for her parents who listened intently and proudly watched while she put on a show just for them.

“I would just make up songs on the spot. My parents would sit down and watch endless concerts of songs,” said Isabella. “But I think I wrote my first actual song when I was around ten or 11, and then I started writing and realizing, ‘okay, I kind of have a cool thing going on here’.”

By the time she was 12, Isabella knew music was a career she wanted to pursue. For almost one year, Isabella has been the lead singer of Soundbox, an all-original rock band from Memphis, Tennessee. The five-member band that includes Isabella, Seba, Josh, Jason, and Kevin, has a steady following of fans. Soundbox has performed a few times at Memphis Grizzlies games at the FedEx Forum and took the Main Stage at the Mid-South Fair, in Southaven, Mississippi last year.

“Being a part of this band is so very fun because it really has inspired me to write and create again, because I was in a little bit of a tough spot with coming up with new ideas,” said Isabella. “But it’s also very challenging because it is a rock band, and I don’t write music like that. So it’s just been really cool, but really challenging. But I have my spark back and I’m super happy.”

That spark is just what Isabella needed to get back on track with writing music which she loves to do. In the art of music, Isabella is mainly a vocalist and plays the piano well enough to help her create the songs she writes. It was her former music teacher who suggested Isabella audition for Soundbox when it was looking for a new lead singer.

“Seba and I shared the same voice teacher, and she recommended me. So we met up, had one trial rehearsal together, and found we really hit it off,” said Isabella. “It was definitely scary at first because they were all so talented. I was just like, ‘What do I do here?’. But it’s been very easy to just transition into being a part of the group.”

Isabella spends a lot of time writing music and shares she always has a pen and paper in hand. She never knows when inspiration will come to her, so she is always open and ready.

“I write music all the time and just get these little ideas that can come randomly. I remember a song I have released which is called “Too Late to Fly”. I came up with the chorus when I was vacuuming, and I dropped the vacuum and ran to my piano and recorded a voice memo,” said Isabella.

When it comes to writing and singing music, Isabella tends to lean more towards breezier sounding melodies. Music is cathartic for her, and she is a songwriter who loves to focus primarily on storytelling and getting a message across to listeners.

“I tend to make songs slower and more heartfelt because that is the genre I primarily enjoy,” said Isabella. “My favorite song I love to play is “House of the Rising Sun”, and I play that on guitar. I always end up playing it a little bit softer and a higher key, and just really making it smoother.”

Isabella is intentional with the songs she writes and addresses social issues she believes should be given more attention.

“Some songs include topics about always being labeled the therapist friend or a song about how difficult it is to just be friends with benefits with someone, or a song about feeling taken advantage of in a relationship that could be either romantic or platonic,” said Isabella who has a special passion for the topic of mental health. “’Too Late to Fly’ is my pride and joy of most of the songs I’ve written. I wrote it for a friend because he and I were both in a very hard place emotionally, and I basically wrote it to say that I’m going to support you no matter what. I’ve heard from a lot of people that the song has gotten them through very difficult times. I just really like my music being able to promote mental health because I feel like especially in the music industry, it isn’t talked about as much as it should be.”

Isabella went on to share about her own experiences with bullying.

“When I was younger, I had a lot of people who would basically cut me off or bully me, and just make me feel terrible. There was a long time where I was just struggling and it was not fun,” said Isabella. “But that’s where a lot of my music came from because I realized more than journaling, more than physical activity, writing music was my therapy. It really gave me this friend that I didn’t have anywhere else, and it always carried me through. I just really want my music to be that friend for other people. Honestly, more than anything, more than being recognized, more than getting money or traction from it, just helping people heal has meant the absolute world to me.”

Wanting to reach young girls who may be struggling as she did, Isabella has a message for them, “whether in music or in life, do not ever under any circumstance compromise who you are to fit the mold that someone else may have for you. The cool thing about being a human, is that we are all so individual and so unique, and so very creative.”

Isabella, being so very creative, just released “Learning to UnLove” a song she describes as her “magnum opus”.

“I’m really proud of the fact I’ve been able to elevate my sound in this song. It’s unlike the other things I’ve been creating but it still feels like me,” said Isabella who would love to create a rock inspired indie album one day.

Being a part of Soundbox has allowed Isabella to expand her music writing skills and grow creatively. She never imagined herself in a rock band, but that is where Isabella has found herself and she is enjoying the experience.

“We are a rock band, but it’s really cool because there’s so many different styles that we write. One of our songs is technically known as an Afro-Cuban sounding song,” said Isabella.

The rock band has received a number of invitations to perform in West Tennessee as well as out-of-state. Some recent performances include the “Rockin’ Christmas Celebration Featuring Music by Soundbox” in Bolivar, Tennessee that was co-sponsored by Homeschool Roster. Earlier this month, the band was invited to perform at the Rising Legends Rock Music Festival in Austin, Texas and will again hit the stage at Neil’s Music Room on Sunday, April 7, 2024, in Memphis, Tennessee. Soundbox has also just released a new song, “Take You Out“, that Isabella said people should “definitely check out”!

Along with singing with Soundbox and her solo work, Isabella has been working on a duet project, Isabella & Sebastian,

“It’s myself and my drummer from Soundbox, Sebastian Stephens, working together to create a completely different sound than my solo stuff and SoundBox,” said Isabella. “We just released “Helium” – our debut song as a songwriting duo. It’s an indie pop style sound that’s influenced by 80s synth and pop. It’s really fun to get to experiment with a different sound, and write in a way I don’t normally get to.”

Being a homeschool student has allowed Isabella to complete her education while also pursuing her love of music. Isabella, a senior in high school, is a student of HomeLife Academy and has been homeschooled all her life. She loves the tailored education that allows her to learn what she prefers to learn, and getting the experience of being out in the world rather than sitting at a desk all day.

“It really has freed up a lot of creative time. There have been days when my mom has gotten home and she’s asked, ‘How’s school going?’. I just told her I put it off to the last minute, because I’ve been working on a song all day. It really allows me to just adventure off creatively and go in all different directions. I’ll do my school outside and then I’ll just sit down on my piano or with my guitar and write a song. It really has opened so much time to pursue what really matters to me,” said Isabella.

Isabella absolutely loves literature, and has enjoyed anatomy and physiology. She is a self-proclaimed “massive bookworm” and one of her favorite books is The Giver by Lois Lowry.

Along with balancing performing with the band, rehearsal, studio recording time, and homeschool, Isabella works a part time job in the fast-food industry, and is the primary chauffeur for her sister, Sophia Kate, to and from school. She leads a busy life but would not have it any other way.

Isabella credits her family for the success she has experienced with her music. Before she received her license, both of her parents, Rob and Bethany, made sure she made it to music and drama rehearsals, and performances. Her mother continues to help promote Isabella and has gotten her gigs. Her sister, Sophia Kate, has been a big supporter of her music, and her brother, Zach, is always in the audience whenever he is in town visiting.

“I think that’s why I was able to cling to it [ music ] so easily, because I just had undying support from my family,” said Isabella who made sure not to miss mentioning her number one fans. “And then, of course, my grandmother and all my grandparents are basically the presidents of my fan club. And I love them dearly.”

As much as she loves music, Isabella does have a backup plan. She would love to go to college to become an occupational therapist. If that ends up being her path, she would love to continue writing songs and music professionally.

“I would love to just write and bring in a cool new take on music that maybe plays on the radio or is just for smaller artists,” said Isabella.

Keep up with solo artist Isabella DeFir on her website, Instagram and YouTube.

Keep up with group Soundbox on its website, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

Keep up with the duet Isabella &Sebastian on YouTube.

Isabella’s West Tennessee Favorites

Favorite place to eat: Sunrise Memphis. It has the greatest avocado toast you will ever taste in your life, and I really love Olive Garden.

Favorite place to go: Beale Street is just another world. You can always hear music. If you walk down it, the sounds you will hear are just heavenly and there are great places to eat on Beale Street. Also, it is really cool when it’s dark and all the lights are on.

Favorite thing to do: I would highly suggest going to the Orpheum Theatre and seeing a show. I just think the Orpheum is so very beautiful and the history and honestly, just the culture behind it. It’s got its own little world. It’s really just cool.

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